Menard Gets NASCAR Busch Series Career-Best Runner-Up Finish With Stellar Effort in Emerson Radio 250 at Richmond RICHMOND, Va. (Friday, Sept. 9, 2005) -- Paul Menard made a Splash tonight at the Richmond International Raceway with a ...
Menard Gets NASCAR Busch Series Career-Best Runner-Up Finish With Stellar Effort in Emerson Radio 250 at Richmond
RICHMOND, Va. (Friday, Sept. 9, 2005) -- Paul Menard made a Splash tonight at the Richmond International Raceway with a career-best second-place finish in the Emerson 250 NASCAR Busch Series event.
Menard started 15th in his Menards/Splash Windshield Wiper Fluid Chevrolet, a starting position that was not necessarily indicative of the car Menard had for the race. When asked about the chances of the #11 team winning Friday night, team engineer Brian Campe commented, "Lets just say we've got a car that should put Paul in a position to win. I think it's pretty good."
In the spring event here, Menard led 38 laps. Tonight, Menard led 65 laps amongst a group of fire-breathing Nextel Cup drivers that included Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Mark Martin.
Early in the race, Menard's Chevy was good, but not great. Tight in the middle, free off the corners, but drivable as he held his position in the top-15. A Lap-41 caution allowed the team to give Menard tires and fuel, but changes were not made to the car since track conditions were still materializing and temperatures still dropping. Any change might have been for the worse in the long term.
Menard cracked the top 10 on Lap 125 and was feeling good about the car. After a caution involving Jason Keller and Erin Crocker, the team elected to pit on Lap 128. Crew chief Dan Stillman and Menard debated about a slight air-pressure change to help the car. The change was made, Menard took tires, fueled up, and as a result was good to go the distance without another stop.
But as it turned out, the leaders did not pit. Menard radioed in, "Maybe that wasn't the best idea." Stillman responded, "Lets just see how this works out. I think we're fine."
A dozen laps later, a caution sent everyone ahead of Menard to the pits. The #11 went straight to the top of the scoring pylon and Stillman looked like a genius. Menard had a fast car, fuel to make it to the end, and tires that would be marginally more worn than what the leaders were taking on by the end of the race. All Menard had to do was hold off the trailing Cup triumvirate of Harvick, Kenseth and Martin for 100 laps or so and victory was in the bag.
Now, of course, nothing is that easy. Menard, however, was out to make it happen. He pulled out to a three-quarter-straightaway lead on Harvick and threatened to make it a laugher. Spotter Stevie Reeves kept reminding Menard to hit his marks and stay smooth. Through two cautions, second-place Harvick hounded Menard, but to no avail. Menard had a fast car running the high line and was carrying a lot of momentum out of the corners. Harvick would test Menard repeatedly by diving underneath, but could not make a pass.
For 60 laps, Menard held the point, staving off Harvick's 'Butter Cup' until the inevitable late-race Richmond caution, this one for a spectacular crash by teammate Martin Truex Jr. Truex's car was pinched into the outside wall, flipping sideways and running the length of the back straight on its side as if a stunt car for Days of Thunder 2. Truex was unhurt.
The restart came on Lap 216 and Menard had his hands full with only 34 laps to go. Stillman radioed him: "Harvick's gonna try everything he knows to get b, so you just have to hold him off. You can do it. Just do what have to do."
Harvick eventually got by Menard, his car simply too fast to handle.
During the final caution on Lap 222 Menard radioed in, "Our car's really good, but that 21 car is pretty damn fast." Stillman pumped Menard up and told him to try and get him, but it just wasn't going to happen. Menard realized that, too, and chose to focus more on staying ahead of the Roush train of Kenseth and Martin behind him.
Kenseth had a fast car, and like Harvick before, was throwing all his experience at Menard. Lap after lap, Menard held his high line, even enduring a green-white-checker finish and maintaining second-place to wrap up his best race to date in the Busch series.
"I was looking forward to this race. I knew we'd be fast again," Menard said afterwards. "We were pretty even with Harvick for a while, but his car was so fast in the end. I realized I wasn't going to get him, so I made sure we finished second. Kenseth had a good car ,too, but I was protecting the high line and he couldn't pass me down low. My spotter did a good job of keeping me on it and we got through that last restart at the end.
"Dan made a really good call when we came in ahead of everyone else. Plus, we had really good stops, too. That last stop picked up a ton of track position for us. It got us to the front and my car was really good alone out front. I just tried to be smooth and not make any mistakes."
The result moved Menard up to seventh in the standings going into the coming weekend off for the Busch series. The next event for Menard will be Sept. 24 at the Monster Mile in Dover, Del.